Weekend links 355

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Quería ser pájaro (1960) by Leonora Carrington.

• Artist and author Leonora Carrington was born 100 years ago this week. Marina Warner, an advocate of Carrington’s work in the years when the artist was “forgotten” (ie: ignored by those who should have known better), remembered her friend as someone adept at making “visible the invisible”. Elsewhere, Carrington’s centenary was noted by Phantasmaphile (with many links), Strange Flowers and the LRB, the latter being a Leonora Carrington A-Z by Chloe Aridjis.

Geeta Dayal on Ikutaro Kakehashi who died this week. The synthesizers, drum machines, effects units and other gear produced by Kakehashi’s Roland Corporation are inextricably entwined with the development of electronic music in the 1970s and 80s.

• Do we really need a compilation of singles by Can? Not when all the music has been available for years on albums and compilations. Of more interest is Rob Young‘s forthcoming (well…not until next year) biography of the band, All Gates Open.

• Out from Thames & Hudson this week: Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue by Aubrey Powell.

• At Dangerous Minds: The Master of Moorcock: The psychedelic sci-fi book covers and art of Bob Haberfield.

Abigail Ward on Queer Noise: the history of LGBT+ music & club culture in Manchester.

FullFathom5, home of “something rich and strange” makes a welcome return.

• At Flickr: Occult Beliefs and Themes in British Popular Culture (1875–1947)

• At I Love Typography: Jamie Clarke on the evolution of chromatic fonts.

• Mix of the week: a mix for The Wire by Patterned Air Recordings.

Invisible Cities (1990) by Invaders Of The Heart | Invisible Architecture (1997) by John Foxx | Invisible (2005) by Monolake

Weekend links 332

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Suspiria (2012) by Jessica Seamans.

Matthew Sperling on Tom Phillips’ “treated Victorian novel” A Humument, which he calls “a multimedia masterpiece”. Phillips’ sixth and final edition of the book is published by Thames & Hudson next month.

Strange Flowers on Monsieur de Bougrelon (1897), a short novel by Jean Lorrain which will be published next month by Spurl Editions. The book is currently on my to-be-read-next pile.

Theodore Carter finds images of skulls by artists through the ages. I’d have included Giacometti’s almost abstract Head-Skull (1934) or his sketch of 1923.

• The horror stories of EF Benson contain “enough nastiness to give you just the right kind of frisson for the time of year,” says Nicholas Lezard.

• Covers for One, an American magazine of the 50s and 60s dedicated to “the homosexual viewpoint”.

Kelly Sullivan takes a close look at the illustrations and stained-glass work of the great Harry Clarke.

• Lost Moomins cartoon strips will be shown in the first UK Tove Jansson exhibition.

• The extravagant homes of Ludwig II of Bavaria are in urgent need of restoration.

• Mix of the week: The Nine Ten Never Sleep Again Mix by The Curiosity Pipe.

Ténéré Tàqqàl (what has become of the Ténéré), a new song by Tinariwen.

• The King of Weird: Joyce Carol Oates on HP Lovecraft.

• Charting the legacy of cult 1970s band, Big Star.

Falling (1992) by Miranda Sex Garden | Inferno (Version II) (1993) by Miranda Sex Garden | Peep Show (1994) by Miranda Sex Garden

Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box

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Susan Sontag, Tony Curtis and Stan Brakhage all shared an appreciation for the work of American artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), and all appear in a 51-minute documentary Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box directed by Mark Stokes for the BBC in 1991. Susan Sontag was also the subject of one of Cornell’s collages, something she discusses here. Tony Curtis collected many of Cornell’s boxes and used to visit the artist when he was in New York; in Stokes’s film he discusses their relationship and reads from Cornell’s writings.

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I’ve had a tape of this for years courtesy of Kerri Sharp who worked on the film (hi Kerri!) but it’s taken a while to turn up on YouTube. The value of films such as this isn’t so much the view they give of the works themselves—all of which are better judged in books or museums—but the way they function as mini-biographies which give a sense of the environment from which the art emerged. You can read in detail about Cornell’s life in Deborah Solomon’s Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell (1997) but a text description of his home lacks the immediacy of the views Stokes gives us of the Cornell house, and the room where he created so much of his work. The film also follows Cornell’s train journeys into New York City, and visits the locations of his short films. Extracts of the latter appear throughout the documentary but you can see them in full at Ubuweb.

If you’re looking for an arty (and costly) Christmas present this year, Thames & Hudson have just published Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels: How Joseph Cornell reinvented a French Agricultural Manual to create an American Masterpiece; two books in a box with a CD, edited by Analisa Leppanen-Guerra and Dickran Tashjian. The NYT reviews it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Joseph Cornell, 1967
Rose Hobart by Joseph Cornell
View: The Modern Magazine

Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special

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Mr Lovecraft by JK Potter.

HP Lovecraft died seventy-five years ago on 15th March, 1937. Twenty-five years ago I was halfway through drawing my comic strip adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu, conscious at the time that, yes, it was fifty years ago today… I mentioned at the weekend the special Lovecraft edition of Heavy Metal that was published in October 1979; of the many stimuli that led to the drawing of CoC, this magazine was by far the most important. Given the date, now seems as good a time as any to say something about it.

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Illustration for the contents page by Stephen R. Bissette.

Heavy Metal was the US offshoot of Métal Hurlant, the sf/fantasy comics magazine founded by Jean Giraud (Moebius), Philippe Druillet and Jean-Pierre Dionnet in 1974. Copies of Métal Hurlant could be found in London but none ever made it further north. The advent of Heavy Metal provided an invaluable introduction to a generation of European artists whose work was otherwise difficult to find. Even better: their stories were being translated into English for the first time. The late 70s was a dizzying period for a Lovecraft reader: HR Giger appeared apparently out of nowhere in 1977 when Big O published the first UK collection of his art (which I couldn’t afford at the time), a book with Necronomicon in the title; a year later Thames & Hudson published Franz Rottensteiner‘s The Fantasy Book, an overview of the genre that devoted eight pages to Lovecraft and Arkham House, and which included many illustrations I’d never seen before; in 1979 Giger was all over the newspapers and magazines thanks to Alien; then in October the Lovecraft special dropped onto the shelves. I was stunned: this was that rare occasion when someone creates exactly the thing you want to see at precisely the right moment.

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The Dunwich Horror by Alberto Breccia. A superb adaptation.

Looking back, the issue isn’t quite as good as it seemed at the time: many of the stories are slight, a couple have nothing whatever to do with Lovecraft, and, Breccia aside, none of the artists tackle the major works. What counted in the end was the idea of the issue, the implication that Lovecraft’s imagery was there to be seized and reworked in visual form. There were better issues of the magazine, before and after, but for the next six years this one remained for me a tantalising possibility. They hadn’t got it quite right…what if someone else did? After searching comic shop shelves in vain I eventually decided to have a go myself.

Continue reading “Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special”

Pleasure of Ruins

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The ideas ruins evoke in me are grand. Everything comes to nothing, everything perishes, everything passes, only the world remains, only time endures. How old is this world! I walk between two eternities.

Denis Diderot, 1767

Ruins, as Diderot observed, are the memento mori of civilisations, a reminder that the apparent permanence of architecture is illusory: this too shall pass. Rose Macaulay explored the melancholy pleasure inspired by this contemplation in Pleasure of Ruins (1953), a book I was reminded of on two separate occasions this weekend. Before I get to those I can’t resist showing something of my own copy of Macaulay’s study, a heavyweight volume (286 pp, 346mm x 260mm) published by Thames & Hudson in 1964. This was the third book by Canadian photographer Roloff Beny who made a habit of photographing ancient ruins. Here he visits Angkor, Tintern Abbey, Persepolis, Petra, Baalbek, Leptis Magna, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu and elsewhere to embellish Macaulay’s text with 160 photogravure pages, 12 tipped-in colour plates, and maps of the locations on fold-out spreads. Beny also designed the book which even in my rather scuffed and damp-afflicted copy is an impressive example of the mass-produced edition as work-of-art.

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Metallic silver printing on the endpapers.

Rick Poynor provided the first mention of Macaulay’s book in a piece of polemic justifiably disputing the pejorative term “ruin porn”, an epithet that’s appeared recently among critics of those fascinated by photos of abandoned Detroit, or Battleship Island off the coast of Japan. If photos of ruins are “ruin porn” then Roloff Beny’s books must count as hardcore, while my National Trust Book of Ruins is evidently a government-sponsored sex manual. Poynor notes the criticism being a particularly American one, and wonders whether some Americans fail to appreciate the long cultural and political history of the ruin in Europe. Plenty of European cities have ruins in their midst, whether ancient ones like London Wall and the centre of Rome, or more recent ones like the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin and Coventry Cathedral, both partially destroyed during the Second World War. An appreciation of ruins began in the 18th century and evolved in tandem with the emergence of antiquarianism. Prior to this, ancient ruins were either a nuisance or a resource to be plundered for their stones. (Or, as can be seen in some of Piranesi’s Views of Rome, a convenient support for shops and houses.)

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From ruin porn to Ruin lust: our love affair with decaying buildings, an essay by Brian Dillon which covers similar ground to Poynor’s piece, and discusses Rose Macaulay’s interest in ruins, an interest that survived being bombed out of her home during the war. This is a great run through the usual suspects, from the Romantics (with a nod to Fonthill Abbey) to JG Ballard’s obsession with the remnants of the Cold War and the Space Age. Dillon mentions the painting John Soane commissioned from Joseph Gandy showing his Bank of England building as a future ruin. And he also recounts the story (which I heard repeated recently in a Robert Hughes documentary) of Hitler’s demands to Albert Speer during their planning of the future capital of the Third Reich, Germania, that the buildings should make good ruins. It’s impossible to imagine anyone today planning a building as a future ruin even though many will end up that way, if they last at all.

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If it wasn’t already apparent that ruins are the thing du jour, a current exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts is of photographic prints by Jane and Louise Wilson showing views of abandoned Pripyat, better known as the town at the heart of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Rick Poynor refers to Pripyat in his piece, and it’s also an inevitable subject of discussion in Geoff Dyer’s latest book, Zona, an exploration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker where a disused power station adds a more sinister quality to the pleasure of ruins.

More pages from Roloff Beny’s book follow.

Continue reading “Pleasure of Ruins”